back to article Ten badass brainy computers from science fiction

Computers used to be our loyal servants. But slowly and surely, we've let them control us. I used to believe these machines had the ability to positively change the world, but after the 56K modem invented Dubstep in the 1990s, I've been somewhat sceptical. So have film makers. Boost a PC with a new processor these days and …

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You forgot a couple

1. M5, from a famous Star Trek OS episode whose title I've somehow forgotten. Nothing surprising about the plot -- your basic "computer develops awareness, gets megalomania, tries to take over ship" kind of plot -- but quite well done, with a plot twist in which, when its designer explains that what it's done is horribly wrong, the computer chooses suicide.

2. The computer in THX 1138 -- or, as I call it, The Only George Lucas Film That Matters -- while not a "character" per se, is still a hugely influential part of the plot. The closest it comes to being an actual character in the film is when it appears as the wise, bearded face on the big screen in the digitally-networked confessional booths throughout the underground city where THX lives.

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Coat

Re: You forgot a couple

Also :-

Unnamed computer in Logan's Run. Responsible for quite a few deaths in a similar vein to the THX 1138's one person born, one person dies type way - but at least you got 30 years of fiddling.

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Coat

Re: You forgot a couple

....when its designer explains that what it's done is horribly wrong, the computer chooses suicide.

Another thing now looking terribly dated. Here's the modern version:

"And what is the penalty for murder, M5?"

"Thirty years confinement, with time off for good behaviour. Hell, I'm permanently confined in this engine room anyway, so screw the time off. Might as well have some fun and get stuck into some serious arse-kicking..."

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Facepalm

And where

Is the supercomputer that so gloriously screws things up (GIGO) in Len Deighton's Billion Dollar Brain (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061405/)

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Anonymous Coward

Yes! Orac

Orac was self aware, and was generally intent on taking over the ship at any possible opportunity, at least in the first couple of seasons.

The computer from War games has been missed.

If we are including tv series, the re-imaged Cylons have to be included.

I am sure there are many Doctor Who's with mental computers.

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Re: Orac was self aware...

Orac was designed to break into and control other computers. So just in it's nature to do that. It's 'replacement' in the After Life novel, (which wasn't filmed so doesn't count), was designed to control everybody. Only good thing about that book as far as I can remember is that Avon and Villa managed to survive the end of the TV series and although Tarrant also survived, he managed to get himself killed in about two pages of turning up. (Mind it was a long time ago, and I'm getting old, so might be mistaken).

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Happy

Auto

From Wall-E.

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Hitchhiker Guide to The Galaxy

Quote: "Earth is destroyed five minutes before the calculations can be completed".

I beg to differ. I recall one of the book said the Earth was destroyed five minutes *after* the calculations were completed. Memory says that a lady sipping tea at a café suddenly came to the realization of the meaning of life but the planet got destroyed right after.

Is my memory failing?

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Coat

Re: Hitchhiker Guide to The Galaxy

@RodB

Unfortunately your memory is failing:

Slartibartfast: I was most upset to hear of its destruction.

Arthur: *You* were upset?

Slartibartfast: Five minutes later and it wouldn't have mattered so much. Shocking cock up. The mice were furious.

Arthur: Mice?

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Re: Hitchhiker Guide to The Galaxy

The earth was destroyed after the result, but before the melancholy girl had a chance to tell anyone about it. There is a scene where the girl in the cafe has the revelation, while drinking tea, she gets up walks to the pay phone and at that moment the world is destroyed.

The line "Five minutes later" comes from the idea that if she had actually been able to tell anyone about it then it wouldn't have been a problem.

Forget that however: why was Hitch-hikers referenced to the appalling 2005 remake which I need to scrub from my mind instead of the TV series or books?

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Re: Hitchhiker Guide to The Galaxy

It's 5 minutes before the final read-out. If Fenchurch had known, she'd have been able to explain it in 'So Long...', but she can't, because the whole novel is about Arthur getting laid. Finally.

Not that it mattered, since the Golgafrinchans on the 'B' Ark had already wiped out Deep Thoughts carefully created humans.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hitchhiker Guide to The Galaxy

"I beg to differ. I recall one of the book said the Earth was destroyed five minutes *after* the calculations were completed. Memory says that a lady sipping tea at a café suddenly came to the realization of the meaning of life but the planet got destroyed right after."

Right. But as Fenchurch wasn't able to get to a phone to tell anyone, nobody (except the narrator) knew the calculations were complete. So you're correct, the calculations were complete before the destruction of the earth, but as the book says, another 5 minutes and it wouldn't have mattered, because presumably Fenchurch would have gotten to a phone and then the "program" and the mice would then know the calculations were complete.

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Stop

Re: Hitchhiker Guide to The Galaxy

> instead of the TV series or books?

Which themselves are only pale imitations of the original Radio series.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hitchhiker Guide to The Galaxy

"Unfortunately your memory is failing:

....

Slartibartfast: Five minutes later and it wouldn't have mattered so much. Shocking cock up. The mice were furious."

No, he's right. The calculations were complete. Just that Fenchurch didn't have time to tell anyone, so the mice didn't have their question. Five minutes later and they would have.

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Boffin

Colossus

I saw this movie as a child and was rightfully impressed for years and years.

For some reason better left to child psychologists, I was really shocked when it "says": There is another system.

I say that, every once in a while, to this day :)

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Anonymous Coward

What about V.I.K.I.?

As bad as Skynet!

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(Written by Reg staff)

Mentioned under Skynet too ;-)

VIKI isn't as bad as Skynet, though, it's being "bad" to protect humans - or so it thinks - rather than to protect its own computing kind.

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What about...

... the Difference Engine from Gibson and Sterling's book of the same name?

A self-aware *mechanical* computer!

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Re: What about...

[spoiler]I do think it is fully upgraded when it self-analyzes, matrix like.[/spoiler]

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Anonymous Coward

Not in a movie..

But definitely the most worrying bit of hardware : Hex in the Unseen University's science department. It's administrator is Ponder Stibbons, and it proudly displays a sticker 'Anthill Inside'.

It's possibilities are endless !

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Wintermute

Shame no books were included, as Wintermute is surely the most interesting computer in sci fi, being a huge part of the plot of Neuromancer, and an actual protagonist of sorts. (Deus Ex fans will also remember Daedalus, which is more or less the same character.)

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Re: Wintermute

Yes, Wintermute was good.

If you're into books, I've always thought the best SF computer (as opposed to fully-fledged superhuman AI) was in Greg Bear's "Queen of Angels" and "Slant". JILL is female, not at all malevolent, and (in the first book) convincingly not-quite-self-aware.

The first book also contains a very scary monster. To say more would be a spoiler.

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Pint

Re: Wintermute

Books Eh?

Try the Inherit the Stars series by James P. Hogan.... Zorac, Visar(good guys) and Jevex(he's super bad!)

http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/pint_32.png

The Pint for Friday!

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Terminator

Badassability

An unstoppable team was Dr. Theopolis the brains and Twiki the brawn.

All other contenders can bidi-bidi-bidi off!

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Wait a moment

They want to remake The Forbin Project with Will Smith (and doubtless one or all of his endlessly annoying children)?

Doesn't this constitute a crime against art and humanity?

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Wait a moment

They want to remake The Forbin Project with Will Smith (and doubtless one or all of his endlessly annoying children?

AAAUUUGGGHHHH. I was a young-ish teenager when that came out. I knew about it, but never got around to seeing it until I was in high school, on a "Movie Of The Week" on TV. Even then, the whole computer-becomes-self-aware-megalomaniac trope was already getting pretty beat, and I thought it was kind of hokey and changed the channel about half an hour into it. As I recall, the producers of MST3K considered it for an episode, but also iirc, it was bumped by another '70s turd called Parts: The Clonus Horror. Still, in other episodes, you can catch references to Colossus in the theater riffs.

Doesn't this constitute a crime against art and humanity?

Crime against art, for sure. You know Hollywood's totally out of ideas when, after doing movies based on comic books and video games, and after running out of good pictures to re-make, they start in remaking crap like Colossus, The Forbin Project... but a crime against humanity? Perhaps not. Hollywood wouldn't keep shoving Will Smith movies in our faces if there weren't enough people out there stupid enough to pay to see them.

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Never made it to film, but I wish they would...

Any of the Culture Minds, for example "Grey Area" (aka Meatfucker) :)

They have done what most sci fi AIs want to do and already rule humanity, and with names like "Big Sexy Beast", or my favourite "No More Mr Nice Guy", no wonder they came out on top!

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Re: Never made it to film, but I wish they would...

oops......

The discussion between a starship and a fleshy type where the alien in question calls out the ROU Killing Time for arrogance and in turn is told that it has every right to be arrogant, bearing in mind it fucks star systems is pure class....

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Holmes

On second thoughts....

Re-reading the title of the subject - "Ten badass brainy computers from science fiction", it's not actually limited to AI's which have had a film debut - It kind of suggests all of science fiction can be included(*). Therefore go for it from here on. So Culture offensive ships can be included :-)

(*) I suspect the writer had a limited selection of piccy's to make the article more dynamic.

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Childcatcher

Proteus

I think the scariest of them all.

One of the best ever bits of voice work there from an uncredited Robert Vaughan.

Truly menacing and vengeful.

"Clean the lenses!!"

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Mushroom

The General

A slightly obscure / cult-ish reference, but what about The General from the episode of the same name of the original "The Prisoner"? The font of all knowledge for the inhabitants of The Village, but eventually has its circuits blown in response to Number 6's question "Why?"

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Holly picture

There is no Holly in your Red Dwarf picture! That's Hilly, the inferior replacement for the great Norman Lovett.

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Terminator

Gotta throw in another vote for "JOSHUA" from War Games

How about a nice game of chess?

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Terminator

Angels 1 & 2....

(Earth Search).. Nutters both of them, (but taken out by the Nutter AI at the end of the series - or were they?)

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Re: Angels 1 & 2....

I was wondering who would remember Angel 1 and Angel 2. Flooding a planet to get the crew back on board must rate highly in the madness stakes.

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Terminator

Re: Angels 1 & 2....

They did also bump off all the crew of their generation ship, (except the four babies), then embark on a quest to take over Earth in the disguise of gods.

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Mushroom

What, no WOPR?

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Mushroom

The Red Queen

The Red Queen from the Resident Evil films - there's just something spooky about a holographic child telling you that you're all going to die....

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Happy

Re: The Red Queen

Oh yes, well remembered. "I've been a very, very naughty girl."

Phil.

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Forbidden Planet

What about that massive computer-machine thing that took over the whole planet ? In the bit where Dr Morbious is giving the other guys a grand tour, he explains that the clicking sounds they hear are relays opening and closing. Earie. Also earie is having effects that good in the 50s, and the whole "monsters from the mind" thing.

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Terminator

Re: Forbidden Planet

Yes, the Krell machine. 7800 levels. A cube 20 miles on each side. Self repairing. 8000 cubic miles. 9200 thermonuclear reactors. Capable of projecting matter to anywhere on the planet. MONSTERS FOR THE ID.

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Re: Forbidden Planet

The Krell machine wasn't bad-ass... it was just doing its job. The bad-ass stuff came about from the Monsters of the ID ie the bad-assness within the humans under its aegis particularly its 'connectivity' with Mobius. As I far as I am aware [no pun intended] the Krell machine wasn't actually sentient... just pretty damn powerful.

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Re: Forbidden Planet

But... But.... it was an enabler of extreme baddass-ness, therefor was culpable, should have known better, and will get sued into oblivion for copyright... Oh, er, sorry. got a bit carried away.

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Colossus in the movie...

Colossus as depicted in the movie was a bunch of IBM 1620 front panels that were scrapped by IBM. They had LOTS of blinkenlights and were wired up to do silly flashes. You can see the MAR selector switch on the right side of the consoles.

A shame that the IBM 1620's were scrapped. They were wonderful machines to program (BCD and all that).

3400032007013600032007024902402111963611300102

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Oi!

Worrabout V'jer?

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Megaphone

Summer Wars, anyone?

How about "Love Machine" from Summer Wars, managing to mess up an entire nation's infrastructure before it's defeated?

(Not a standalone computer? Well, neither is at least one item on the list, the Master Control Program.)

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Proteus IV was a neighbor

I'll always have a soft spot for Demon Seed because the movie used the old Thousand Oaks Civic Center as the exterior for the building where Proteus IV supposedly lived. In the theater, my brother and I supposed that if the TOCC, about four mile from our house, was secretly an AI lab, then the house where Julie Christie lived might be very close by as well.

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Durandal

Durandal from Bungie Software's game Marathon.

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you should have include Man

for man is the most evil computer of them all

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Terminator

Mr. Smith, why are you posting here? Don't you have some perimeter to patrol?

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